Iran hopeful world powers will accept nuclear deal
TEHRAN,Iran - May 18, 2010 -- Iran said Tuesday it expects the U.S. and its allies to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal despite initial skepticism, as key U.N. Security Council member China welcomed the proposal as a way of reviving negotiations over Tehran's nuclear activities.
The U.S. and some of the other world powers involved in the standoff said a deal reached with outside mediation by Turkey and Brazil on Monday failed to ease their concerns that Iran is ultimately intending to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
"If the Western countries continue seeking excuses, it will be clear that they are not after a solution to the issue and have no logical option on the table," said Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast.
He told a weekly press briefing that he was optimistic the deal would go forward after those nations had time for more careful consideration.
Iran is offering to trade much of its enriched uranium for fuel rods needed for a medical research reactor in Tehran. It is similar to a U.N.-drafted deal proposed in October that would have deprived Iran - at least temporarily - of the material it would need to produce a nuclear warhead.
Giving Iran more highly enriched uranium in the form of fuel rods would not allow it to use that material for a weapon. Iran denies its program has a military dimension, but the U.N.'s nuclear monitoring agency says Tehran has not fully cooperated with an investigation meant to ensure its nuclear activity is only for peaceful purposes.
The White House showed deep skepticism about the new pact, noting that it allows Iran to keep enriching uranium, giving it a possible pathway to weapons.
"Given Iran's repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran's nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday.
Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, countered that the pact provided an opening "to move toward interaction instead of confrontation."
He refused, however, to answer several questions Tuesday about whether Iran would continue to enrich uranium on its own to the higher levels of 20 percent needed for the Tehran reactor, which produces isotopes used in cancer treatment.
Lower levels of enrichment - around 3.5 percent - are needed to make fuel for power plants, which is Iran's primary stated aim. But its path toward higher levels of processing is of serious concern because it brings them much closer to the 90 percent level of enrichment needed for a bomb.
On Monday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying Iran would continue to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level - a statement sure to trigger alarm among the U.S. and other nations pushing Iran to stop enrichment altogether.
Besides the U.S., the other nations involved in standoff with Iran are Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Washington has been leading an effort to get the six nations to push through new U.N. sanctions.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, whose nation has been reluctant in the past to impose harsher penalties, sounded positive about the new Iranian proposal.
"We welcome the agreement. ... We hope this will help promote the peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations," he said.
Ma did not respond to a question on how the deal might affect negotiations over sanctions. China, which holds veto power on the Security Council, has repeatedly argued for more talks to resolve the situation but has expressed a willingness to discuss the possibility of new sanctions.
Turkey's foreign minister on Tuesday urged the United States and its allies to stop discussions on more U.N. sanctions, saying that would "spoil the atmosphere."
"Each side now should have a positive approach, constructive style and a real intention and objective of dialogue rather than focusing on mutual suspicion, skepticism, mutual threats, sanctions or other options," Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul.
Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara.
iran, nuclear weapon, national/world
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